Colonel spared prison for fraud, bigamy

June 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM
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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany, June 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army colonel has been sentenced to a reprimand and $300,000 fine for defrauding the government to help his Iraqi lover's family, officials said.

Col. James H. Johnson III, former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was convicted of fraud, bigamy, adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer, Stars and Stripes reported. He could be imprisoned if he fails to pay his fine but will be able to retire with his full pension.

Greg Rinckey, a former judge advocate general, found the sentence troubling. He said the military jury in Kaiserslautern, Germany, might have been swayed by the plight of Johnson's first wife, who stands to benefit from her husband's pension.

Johnson's military career is finished so the reprimand is "meaningless," Rinckey said.

"Once again, it appears there are two different standards for officers and enlisted in the Army," he added. "If this had been an enlisted soldier, you have to believe there would have been a reduction in rank and jail time. And that perception of different rules does become a problem."

During a 2005 deployment, Johnson had an affair with an Iraqi woman and later married her while still legally married to his first wife. The woman's family racked up $80,000 in calls on a government-issued cellphone supplied by Johnson, who also arranged for her father to become a "cultural adviser" in Afghanistan without having qualifications for the post.

Johnson pleaded guilty to 13 counts and was convicted of two others.

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